Archives For I believe

Everyone from the day after Jesus ascended into the clouds has been seeking the essence of Christ. One of the first ones was probably Paul of Tarsus.  Except for that brief encounter with the spirit of Jesus on road to Damascus a few years after he physically left us, he had no personal contact. Today there are 40,000+ different organized version of this essence and probably thousands of personal versions inside each of those. It seems that each one of  these 40k groups are convinced that their version is the only real one.

We all want to know what the essence of God is. We think if we can just determine that then our immortality is somehow assured. We cling onto one version that most aligns with how we want God to be and then mock all the others.  There is no way that each of us, let alone all of us, can ever really understand the essence of God. It is quite simply impossible.  When we get over this almost god-like belief that we know God and others don’t then we can come to accept that everyone is the same as we are.  We simply don’t have a lock on God.

I, like everyone else I imagine, have thought about just who God is?  I think there is quite enough historical evidence that Jesus walked this earth and that many in those times were convinced that he was from God.  That seems to be factual to me. But what about the essence of God.

Who is he and why does he seem to be so in love with us.

  • Maybe he was an extra-terrestrial who came from a world much more developed than ours. Maybe he beamed down to give us  knowledge that we needed to survive as a world.
  • Maybe He is the very glue that holds our universe together and keep our earth spinning around one of the millions of stars in the universe.
  • Maybe He is some wise old white-haired guy who sits in the clouds looking down on all of us to make sure we don’t screw up the world too much.
  • Maybe He simply put the whole thing in motion and is watching to see how we handle his creation.

I don’t pretend to know the essence of God. That is just WAY WAY above my pay grade or anyone else for that matter. All I can do is to take the utterly simple message he gave us through Jesus to love Him and to love each other to be the purpose of my life.  I think he made it simple so we could understand it. I think that is what he expects of us and if we do that then everything else will fall in place both personally and worldly.  We don’t need all those thousands, if not millions, of rules and things built about around his image.

But we seem to be a very long way from even accomplishing that simple loving task.

Advertisements

According to a 2013 study by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institute, 23 percent of 18- to 33-year-olds are religious progressives, 17 percent are religious conservatives, and 22 percent are non-religious. By contrast, only 12 percent of 66- to 88-year-olds are religious progressives, while about half are religious conservatives.

Second, the conversation about income inequality in the U.S. and abroad — the driving force behind the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement — is gaining momentum. Taking up the cause of the poor is a central tenet of religious liberalism. Both Jews and Christians point to the Bible, including this verse from the Book of Psalms: “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.”

President Obama talked about income inequality in his State of the Union address a couple weeks ago and will discuss the global wealth gap at a summit devoted to the issue in March when he visits the Vatican.

And that gets us back to the pope, who appeared on the world scene nearly a year ago. It was a very particular moment.

The world’s richest and most powerful nation has become more ethnically diverse and therefore more religiously tolerant than ever before, driven by a young generation that is increasingly disinterested in conservative social views. And that trend coincides with a growing global focus on the wealth gap.

So: take a new world religious leader from a developing country, with strong views about inclusion, diversity, and poverty mitigation. Then stir in two major demographic and socioeconomic trends driven in part by the world’s most powerful country.

SOURCE: This Is the Year Liberals Take Back Religion from Conservatives | Deborah Caldwell.

Let me begin this post with the fact that I am one of those 12% of seniors who is religiously progressive. Given my world I think the 50% who are classified as conservative is probably a low number. I wish it weren’t so but that is how my world stacks up. In my version of Christianity there can be no such thing as a conservative follower of Christ.  The words of Jesus found in the bible show us that he was a radical of his times, especially among the religious establishment.  Sure, like with many other topics, you can find a verse or two here or there that might seem to put him in a conservative light but the overwhelming volume of words precludes that possibility.

It is heartening to continue to see the trend of the faith community drift away from political conservatism. Every poll shows an increasing trend in this area but I wish it were happening even faster.  I love the fact that Catholics have chosen a progressive pope as least as far as helping “the least of these”. I am a fervent believer that diversity in our country and in our religious establishments is a good thing, maybe even a God-given thing.  Part of diversity is accepting that others are different from you. I try to even celebrate that fact.

It is good news indeed to see that among your younger generations only 17% are religious conservatives. I hope that trend grows in the coming years and more churches follow suit….

The Image of God….

January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-01-10_11-13-00When St. Augustine wrote On the Trinity, he tried to work out a conundrum. He wanted to figure out how women could be the image of God. He finally solved the puzzle by writing that when a woman is alone, then she is not in the image of God. It is only when she is joined with a man, when she is one flesh with him, she can be considered the image of God.

Of course, we cannot take our ideas of gender equality and try to compare them to a different time and culture. We shouldn’t judge Augustine by our liberated standards. But, it is important to ask if we let Augustine ideas seep into our current debates. Do we still do this? Do we reduce a woman’s worth to her sexuality or her fertility?

SOURCE: Sex, Pills and the Image of God | Carol Howard Merritt | Red Letter Christians.

I love reading all the bloggers over at Red Letter Christians. Carol Howard Merritt is no exception. As she mentions in the quote above it is not surprising to see what St. Augustine thought about women only being in the image of God after they are married. That was just the way it was during those times. These are the same circumstances that made Paul tell women to be quiet in church and wait till they got home to ask their husbands about it. Women during that period were considered more property than anything else. Of course Jesus’ actions told us to think otherwise but as usual we failed to get the message.

What is truly saddening about this is those who continue with that same mentality today.  Some say that the Bible is the only word of God and it is meant for all eternity. They have locked down God to the fourth century when the Roman King Constantine put that document together in order to strengthen his control of his kingdom.

I can still hear all the rationalizations around keeping women in their place, even and maybe especially by some women in the fundamentalist church I once belonged. They proclaimed that God has ordained women to be the helper of men and that men are the “deciders” so to speak. They cite some words attributed to Paul as the foundation for this still on-going discrimination.

But when we look at the actions of Jesus we see he for the most part treated women as equals to men. In fact the first person he showed himself to after is resurrection was a woman.

When we lock-down God to a fourth century mentality we are in effect denying that he has any real place in today’s world. We are denying any revelations either personal or public that God has given us since that time. I personally believe that things like cures for diseases, DNA, and other life saving discoveries come from God revealing it to us.

I have had a couple of pretty significant revelations from God in my lifetime. When I mentioned this to my then pastor his first comment was “How do you know it wasn’t from the devil?” Given that the clergyman was one of those lock-down Christians I shouldn’t have been a surprised as I was by his comment.

Reflections…

January 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

There are some folks who would say they are Christian, but they are looking less and less like Jesus. And there are some folks who would never claim to be Christian, yet their hearts and their passions are slowly moving closer and closer to Jesus’ heart. It’s up to God to sort all that out. Being more like Jesus is what we are trying to do as Red Letter Christians; it’s where we’re coming from, and where we’re going.

SOURCE:   Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? (Claiborne, Shane;Campolo, Tony)

Being a new year it is time for some personal reflections.

I have been without an official church home for about three years now. Being told that I am no longer a member of my old church because I publicly, via this blog, stated that I don’t believe the earth is just 6,000 years old so I therefore I don’t believe the Bible is  inerrant. I was informed if I ever repented of these views they might welcome me back.

Since I am deaf being excluded from things is nothing new to me. I am often excluded from social situations because of hearing loss but to be told I didn’t believe the “right” things and therefore I am not welcomed as a member anymore to my church of eight years was still a blow to me.

I have been blogging here at Red Letter Living for more than five years now. I truly believe that all my studies and posts here have made me a better follower of Christ. It has taught me that much of what I was told I must believe is in reality an invention of men, not God.

From my studies I learned that there have been thousands of theologians who have reshaped the message of Jesus into something that they feel more comfortable with. As far as I am concerned that is the basic problem with the church today.  We try to shape God, and therefore Jesus Christ, into something that makes us feel better instead of just accepting the things he told us to do.

My studies have taught me that Jesus does not want us to “believe” in him. Instead he wants, I might even say demands, us to follow him and do what he says.  I find it ironic that I seem to take the words of Jesus more literally than those who vehemently say they are literalists when it come to the Bible. They cling to the Great Commission but then totally ignore the last and maybe most important verses.


All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Doing what he commanded is what it really means to be a follower of Jesus and what it should mean to be a Christian. As James said words without actions are worthless. As to my old church I won’t be repenting of my current views of Jesus so don’t expect to see me again….

Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do…..

As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

SOURCE:  Morf Morford: It’s NOT the economy, stupid | Red Letter Christians.

I am going to do a rare cross post here between two of my blogs. I am doing so because I think this post has a spiritual as well as general message.

While the referenced source above is about life being more than just money, this post is actually just about the description of the author.  Besides having a very interesting name the author of this post over at Red Letter Christians has very interesting look on life. I am proud to say I share his views of God and getting older. But I guess I am luckier than hs is in one regard. I still drink lots of milk. They tell me it is good for my osteoporosis. 🙂

I too am currently a free-range Christian and have been for a few years now.  I am no longer instructed weekly in what I am supposed to believe. Instead I now tend to look at the Lord’s word from a more personal, some might say naive, view. From what I can glean from the Christian Bible I also agree that God expects more from us than almost any of us can imagine or at least willing to put forward.

One of the things that pushed me out of the last church I was in (that is beside being nudged out the door because I did not tow the denominational line closely enough and was asking too many question in adult bible classes) was their stubborn insistence  that they have it all figured out and everyone else is just wrong in one thing or another.  In that regard, I also proudly share the belief that  God knows more than they do, or everyone else for that matter.

One of the things that prompted me to start my blog over at RedLetterLiving more than five years ago was that I just grew less tolerant to pettiness of some mainstream beliefs of the current version of church. In these five years I have learned that I am by no means alone in those feelings.

Thanks Morf for reminding me what it is all about….

Pray For….

August 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

“Ok everyone, time for prayer requests…” I don’t know about you, but those times always unsettle me a bit. Not that I mind praying, but something just always seemed missing or “off.” It finally hit me, why are we just making prayer lists? When we say “pray for Tom who is sick” or “pray for Fred who lost his job” what are we actually asking God to do? Are we asking God to fix it? Are we asking for God to give us just what we wish would happen? What if we actually paused during “prayer request” time and asked ourselves, “What should we be praying for?”…

No, prayer requests are not often obviously judgmental. Most people have the common sense not to say, “pray for Jim, he’s a jerk.” However, we do tend to allow prayer requests to float around that paint a very “victim” slanted story. Yes, Fred lost his job, but did he deserve it? Maybe Fred isn’t a very good worker, or maybe was in the wrong job. Often times the “hard times” in life are simply the times God needs us to change. If we never question our prayers, we miss the opportunity to pray for ourselves. Instead of “God, help me get a job” maybe we can say, “God, show how I need to work on myself.”

via Yaholo Hoyt: What If Prayer Lists Were Work Lists? – Red Letter Christians.

It is heartening indeed to see where others think the same things I do. I find that often happens when I read posts over at Red Letter Christians. Now that I am no longer a member of the small Lutheran congregation I belonged to for several years I can openly proclaim that I felt uncomfortable with all the “prayer requests” that floated among that group of people.  Praying for things was something that just did not come naturally to me. I am one of those believers that think that God gives us what we need in the world and that often includes some difficult times. We just don’t need to pray to Him to make things otherwise happen. I simply believe more along the lines of what Jesus prayed the day before his crucifixion.  “If it be your will…”

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that everything that happens to me or anyone else for that matter is God’s will.  Almost all of it is due to previous decisions by either myself or others. I simply believe that we must live with the consequences of our actions.  I now have bad knees along with numerous other afflictions. I know that those bad knees are mostly the result of how I abused my body over the years. I am not going to pray to God to heal me in that regard. I am instead just going to live with the consequences of previous abuse. If God wants to perform a miracle let him do it with something that has more universal consequences.

I love the idea of treating prayer requests as action items for myself instead of just passing them off to God.

  • I pray that I become a better follower of Christ and that he help me love my fellow-man more deeply.
  • I pray to God to help me make the right decisions in life.
  • I thank God for all the blessing he has bestowed on me.
  • I pray to God simply because he is God.

When Jesus told us to take everything to the Lord in prayer I think he was telling us to do everything in life with his commands in mind.

My Version….

July 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Faith in ActionIf you have read this blog much you will know that I have pretty much given up on denominational Christianity and even the word “Christian”.  Instead I have been calling myself a “follower of Jesus Christ”. Over the last few months I have been seriously contemplating my spiritual life and where I go from here. In the recent months this blog has pretty much been about how all the current forms of Christianity have been thoroughly polluted by the political and cultural atmospheres of our times.  It became too disheartening to continue in that mode. Following Jesus should be a joyous thing to be celebrated instead of lamented.

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I have decided to concentrate this blog and my life, what remains of it, on what I mean when I say I am a follower of Jesus. I will try my best to focus on Jesus and not so much on the current form of his church. I will try to celebrate others in their journeys and criticize a little less. I will continue to study the Emergent Church movement to see what it has to offer and undoubtedly I will keep and eye on my Quaker friends.

One of the magazines I have been getting for some years now is Sojourners. I frequently use Jim Wallis’ emails as material for posts here. I will certainly continue to do that also.  But the reason that part of a recent cover of that magazine is included in this post is the small words below the Sojourner logo. For those who might be reading this post on a phone or tablet those words are “Faith in Action for Social Justice”. I couldn’t think of four other words that would describe my version of Christianity than these.  In the political sphere I am undoubtedly a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Some find this combination conflicting. Social Justice is a primary driver for me in my life.  In my mind if there is faith then there must also be action. As the brother of Jesus said faith without action is a dead faith and worthless.

So, here I am at another crossroads in my walk with Christ. I pray that I have taken the right fork….

Crosses

My translation of the Bible is better than your translation.

Hymns are better than choruses.

The Contemporary service is better than the Traditional one.

My version of baptism is better than yours……

Source: Stephen Mattson: Stop Comparing my Christianity to Your Christianity! – Red Letter Christians.

Another brilliant post by Stephen Mattson over at Red Letter Christians and it came just at the right time for me. I encourage you to read the full post by clicking on the source link just above. Better yet join the Red Letter Christian’s family on Facebook to see all their posts.

The words that struck me the deepest from the post are:

The temptation is to judge others and self-righteously pat ourselves on the back for being “good Christians.” Or we can become hopelessly depressed. Guilt, shame, pride, and legalism can quickly creep into our spiritual lives when we start comparing, and we often start constructing false ideals that are impossible to achieve. We need to recognize that everyone—including ourselves—is God’s creation, holy and sacred, made in His image.

I have not been posting here much lately due to these very thoughts. It seems I am constantly comparing my version of Christianity with others. It has become very frustrating to be in this mode. I simply can’t understand why other Christians don’t understand the simple messages of Christ as I do.  My recent posts seem to be screaming “HERETIC” without actually using those words! I am becoming self-righteous and depressed at the same time. It is time to just step back and celebrate that we are all God’s creation and made in his image.

Recently, and maybe not so recently, I have spent most of my efforts here trying to get others to see Christ as I do. When I encounter other Christians who run counter to my version of Christianity I have become very frustrated and often even depressed and I think that has been showing up on my posts. This eye-opening post from Mr. Mattson ends with the words below. I will try going forward to live by the last paragraph in both my life and this blog.  I will just accept the fact that God loves us all.

 

The world watches as churches split, pastors indict, and Christians accuse each other of being heretics, false prophets, and liars. We positively reinforce the communities we align ourselves with while simultaneously tear down those who disagree with us. Christians have a tendency to self-destruct because we love attacking ourselves. Instead of the fruits of the Spirit, we can easily exhibit the fruits of our secular society: revenge, bigotry, manipulation, disdain, disgust, power, control, profit, and alienation.

It’s easy to lose sight of Christ’s message, one that was simply about service, sacrifice, and love. Let’s not let our hidden agendas—ones that are often based on comparative measures—separate us from the love of God.

I currently don’t know the form or substance but this message will be the focus of future posts here. I will try to find and celebrate those instances of service, sacrifice, and love; I will focus on the love of God and not so much on the differences.

Lost Energy….

June 23, 2013 — 6 Comments

I want to apologize to those of you who read this blog. It seems I have just lost the energy to continue to post here on a regular basis. The futility of convincing some to look at Jesus’ words in a different light has simply become too exhausting for me. Convincing people to concentrate on “being” a Christian as apposed to just believing certain things is more than I can handle right now.

While I will continue to do my best in being a better follower of Jesus Christ and that means listening to his words and doing my best to follow his commands I need step back from RLL for a while to take a break. If/when I am rejuvenated I will continue again but maybe with a different format. I don’t know right now. Please be patient with my lost fervor….

One of the underlying assumptions is that money from the offering or tithe belongs to the church. But the Scriptures consistently teach that the offering is God’s instrument of redistribution and that it belongs to the poor. Giving to the poor should not make its way into the budget; it is the budget. One could argue that small portions of the Israelite offering (no more than 10 percent) was given to the Levitical priesthood (Neh. 12:47), and that in the early church an even smaller contribution could be given to the church’s itinerant evangelists, who, incidentally, were themselves poor (1 Cor. 4:11). But it is not a coincidence that the first major organizational structure in the early church was created to assure order in the redistribution of resources to widows and orphans (Acts 6:1 – 6).

So historically, church offerings were part of God’s economy of redistribution, and over 90 percent was to be given to the poor. We live in an age when we have nearly reversed what God set in place. An average of 85 percent of the church offering is used internally, primarily for staff and buildings and stuff to meet our own needs. And this borders on embezzlement, as theologian Ray Mayhew points out in his essay “Embezzlement of the Church: The Corporate Sin of Contemporary Christianity.” No wonder most churchgoing Christians give only less than 3 percent of their income to the church and find other ways of giving money to the poor.

Claiborne, Shane (2008-09-09). The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Kindle Locations 3015-3025). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I have made it known in the past that Shane Claiborne is one of my heroes. He lives out his faith in an inner-city church called “the Simple Way”.  The book from which the quote above came has a place on the back of my desk reserved for those I consult on a regular basis. As one of the reviews for the book mentions Shane is on a genuine search for the authentic church. That has basically been my goal that founded this blog more than four years ago.

One of the most embarrassing things to me when I was attending a small Lutheran church was to see so little of my weekly offerings actually going out into the community. As a matter of fact there really was practically none of it used for that purpose. The vast majority of the money collected by this small congregation of about forty families went to pay the clergyman’s salary. What was left was for the mortgage on the building and utilities. There was literally nothing left except the expected 10% tithing back to the  national bureaucracy.  When I pointed this out on more than one occasion there was for the most part a silence in the group.

I, like Shane mentioned above, reserved a good portion of my charitable giving to go to an organization that directly dealt with the poor.  It seemed shameful to spend almost all that tax-free money on ourselves. It almost seemed like we were embezzling  God.  It was not until after I left that congregation that I learned that this is more or less the norm for most churches today. Very little gets beyond the church’s doors.